Prosecutors in South Africa on Thursday charged a group of 270 striking miners with murder in the deaths of 34 of their co-workers who were shot to death by police this month. That’s right. Despite the fact that widely circulated video showed police firing on the miners, their colleagues are the ones who are being charged in the slayings.

The justification? An obscure measure that has rarely been used since the country’s apartheid days.

— Posted by Tracy Bloom.

Reuters:

Prosecution have filed papers invoking a measure called “common purpose” seldom used since the dying days of apartheid, arguing the miners were complicit in the killings since they were arrested at the scene with weapons.

Legal experts said the move will likely collapse when a court hearing bail applications for the 270 near the mine resumes sessions next week and lambasted prosecutors for inflaming a tense situation by seeking a mass indictment that will eventually be rejected.

…President Jacob Zuma and his ruling African National Congress have faced increasing pressure over the killings, which are the deadliest security incident since apartheid ended in 1994, with many saying the government may be more concerned about protecting its own than miners in shafts.

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